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China trademarks. The rules for Chinese.

By Dan Harris in 'China Law Blog'

Though my firm represents Chinese companies in the United States, we never represent Chinese companies in China. This means that when we are retained to register trademarks in China, we almost always are registering existing names and those names are almost always in English, or at least in the Roman alphabet.

About 80 percent of the time, when we register a trademark or trademarks in China, we do so in English/Roman letters only. Maybe 20 percent of the time, we also register a name in Chinese as well. Maybe 70 percent of the time, that name is a translation of the English (or something close) and maybe 30 percent of the time, it is a completely different word. We have not yet registered a trademark for anyone in just Chinese.

Mainland China generally uses simplified characters and its rules for simplified/traditional character trademarks are as follows:

  • It is permissible to register trademarks using either simplified or traditional characters.
  • If a registrant will use a simplified character mark AND a traditional character mark, dual registration is required. This would be a very unusual situation in China, but it is possible.
  • Registration with simplified characters is sufficient to prevent another party from using the same words in traditional characters. That is, if a party registers a mark in simplified characters, this will prevent another party from using the same words with traditional characters. Therefore, if the goal is simply to prevent others from infringing by changing the type of character, then a single registration using the type of character that will be used in commerce is sufficient. This is typically simplified characters in China.

So, if your only goal is to prevent infringement a single registration of simplified characters is sufficient. But, if for some reason you want to use both types of characters in your mark, you need to register both.


Dan Harris is founder of the Harris & Moure law firm, a boutique international law firm focusing on small and medium sized businesses that operate internationally. China is the fastest growing area for the firm. Dan writes as a source of China legal and business information.

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